Department of Ecology

Governor’s supplemental budget includes $15.6 million cuts to natural resources

November 21st, 2011  |  Published in Budget, Department of Ecology, Department of Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife, Puget Sound Partnership

The governor’s office released details of the proposed supplemental budget, including more than $15 million in cuts to natural resources management.

Budget cut proposals released by governor

October 28th, 2011  |  Published in Budget, Department of Ecology, Department of Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife, State Agencies

Yesterday the governor’s office released a package of proposed budget cuts, including a breakdown of those impacting natural resources agencies.

Here is a breakdown of the cuts could impact each agency:

  • Department of Agriculture: $5,358,000
  • Conservation Commission: $1,400,000
  • Department of Ecology: $2,822,000
  • Department of Fish and Wildlife: $10,815,000
  • Department of Natural Resources: $2,570,000
  • State Parks: $1,700,000

Natural resources agency consolidation

October 21st, 2011  |  Published in Department of Ecology, Department of Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife, Legislative Meetings, Puget Sound Partnership, State Agencies

The House General Government Appropriations & Oversight Committee recently held a hearing on natural resources agency consolidation. You can view that hearing in the window below:

Budget reduction documents for Ecology

September 28th, 2011  |  Published in Budget, Department of Ecology, Puget Sound Partnership, State Agencies

Earlier this year state agencies were required to file plans with OFM on how they would help bridge the current state budget gap. The Department of Ecology has posted there’s here.

The largest proposed cut from Ecology is in staffing levels:

This reduction request includes permanent staffing cuts that will reduce motor vehicle emission testing, stream flow monitoring, water quality permit administration and water resources management.  It also includes one-time 2011-13 biennium staff cuts focused on air quality, toxic cleanup, and grant management activities.  The reductions include a mix of ongoing, direct General Fund-State cuts and one-time cuts and transfers from dedicated environmental accounts.

Also included in Ecology’s supplimental budget is a new request for funds to satisfy the results of a lawsuit filed by the Squaxin Island Tribe:

Johns Creek Hydrogeology Study – $171,000 State Drought Preparedness Account and $80,000 General Fund-Private/Local.  Ecology, the city of Shelton, and the Port of Shelton will partner to develop a groundwater model for Johns Creek.  The model will give Ecology information to make water management decisions in the basin and help Ecology respond to concerns raised by the Squaxin Island Tribe in their petition for rule-making in the Johns Creek Basin.

OFM has posted links to other agencies that have posted budget reduction memos, none of which are directly natural resources related (some natural resources agency documents have been added).

Governor’s budget cuts to natural resources

December 15th, 2010  |  Published in Budget, Department of Ecology, Department of Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife, State Agencies

Gov. Chris Gregoire released her proposed budget this morning. The proposal, which is the first draft that will be edited by the legislature, cuts more than 25 percent from the combined natural resources budgets. The total allocation from general fund spending for natural resources is reduced by $122.5 million down to $331.7 million.

Here is the budget summary (natural resources starts on page 21).

Here is more details on how those cuts happen. First, the governor proposes raising funds:

Impose cost-recovery fees for:

  • Water rights applications. (shift $5.6 million from GF-S to Water Rights Processing Account)
  • Commercial fishing licenses. (shift $1.1 million from GF-S to State Wildlife Account)
  • Hydraulic project approvals. The Department of Fish and Wildlife will
  • propose legislation to create fees to offset General Fund-State funding and streamline the application process. (shift $3.8 million from GF-S to Hydraulic Project Approval Account)
  • Silviculture burning permits. The Department of Natural Resources is directed to charge fees that generate revenue to cover program costs. (shift $750,000 GF-S to Air Pollution Control Account)

And, here is a summary of the cuts:

Reduce spending at the Department of Ecology for activities that can be delayed or performed less frequently, including water rights processing, litter pickup, and flood control and watershed planning grants. ($5.3 million GF-S; $4.0 million Litter Account; $2.0 million Flood Control Assistance Account)

Reduce staffing, hours of operation and other administrative costs at small agencies. ($2.3 million GF-S; $519,000 other funds) Reduce funding for agricultural fairs, which will result in smaller and fewer county fairs. ($3.0 million Fair Fund)

Reduce expenses for fire control, such as discretionary training for firefighters, and freeze wages for exempt firefighters. ($1.6 million
GF-S)

Reduce General Fund-State support of the Department of Natural Resources’ Natural Heritage Program, which will lead to fewer updates to information on native plant and animal species and ecosystems. ($537,000 GF-S)

Reduce grants to conservation districts and encourage efficiencies such as merging. ($400,000 GF-S)

Shift $9.5 million of base funding for environmental programs at the Department of Ecology from General Fund-State to dedicated accounts. (from GF-S to State and Local Toxics Control Accounts)
Shift funding to achieve permanent, stable support for oil spill prevention and preparedness. ($5.0 million from Oil Spill Prevention Account to State Toxics Control Account)

Create the “Explore Washington” pass to offset the General Fund-State reductions in the Department of Natural Resources and Department of Fish and Wildlife. (shift $1.6 million GF-S to State Wildlife Account)

Governor’s natural resources agencies consolidation plan

December 14th, 2010  |  Published in Budget, Department of Ecology, Department of Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife, Puget Sound Partnership, State Agencies

The governor released a plan to consolidate some of the larger natural resources agencies into one department. You can read her proposal here.

The Senate Democrat Caucus Blog has a good description:

* Consolidating the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the State Parks and Recreation Commission, the Recreation and Conservation Office and the law enforcement unit of the Department of Natural Resources into a new Department of Conservation and Recreation.

* Consolidating the work of the Columbia River Gorge Commission, the Pollution Liability Insurance Agency and the Department of Health’s reclaimed water program into the Department of Ecology.

* Moving the State Conservation Commission into the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation in the Department of Natural Resources

Impacts to natural resources agencies from supplemental budget

December 13th, 2010  |  Published in Budget, Department of Ecology, Department of Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife, Puget Sound Partnership

Over the weekend, the state legislature passed a supplemental budget that in part cuts the expected state revenue shortfall. All major natural resources agencies saw impacts, the largest of which was to the Department of Ecology.

The summary of the cuts can be found at the Legislative Evaluation and Accountably website.

Here are the totals for the various agencies (found on page 8 of the above document):

  • Department of Ecology: $5.89 million cut for a new total budget (2009-11 biennium) of $440 million.
  • Department of Fish and Wildlife: $3.7 million cut, new total budget $323 million
  • Department of Natural Resources:  $4.1 million cut, new total budget $371 million

The document also includes details of what programs were cut in the various departments, starting on page 26.

Here are the detailed cuts for the Department of Ecology:

WATER RESOURCES PROGRAM REDUCTION – Funding and FTE staff are reduced in the Water Resources Program. This will result in less work accomplished in the following activities: water rights adjudication, instream flow setting, dam safety, water rights processing, water law compliance, data and information, water use efficiency, and local watershed management technical assistance.

SHORELANDS PROGRAM REDUCTION – Funding and FTE staff are reduced in the Shorelands and Environmental Assistance Program. This will result in fewer staff available to perform wetlands and watershed planning work. This item includes a $500,000 reduction to new and existing watershed planning grants to local communities.

AIR QUALITY PROGRAM REDUCTION – Funding and FTE staff are reduced in the Air Quality Program. This reduction will result in fewer staff available to work on reducing vehicle emissions, industrial permits, air quality analysis and improvement planning, and grant management.

WATER QUALITY PROGRAM REDUCTION – Funding and FTE staff are reduced in the Water Quality Program. These reductions will delay work on water quality cleanup plans and reduce capacity to manage water quality grants and loans.

ADMINISTRATION PROGRAM REDUCTION – Funding and FTE staff are reduced in the Administration and Support Program. This reduction will result in less capacity for federal grant reporting, cost recovery, accounts receivable, and updates to the Department’s information technology system responsible for managing grants, contracts, and loans. In addition, less staff time will be devoted to climate change preparation and adaptation work.

MONITORING PROGRAM REDUCTION – Funding and FTE staff are reduced in the Environmental Assessment Program. This will result in fewer staff devoted to measuring streamflows and monitoring the effectiveness of water cleanup plans.

UTILIZE DEDICATED ACCOUNTS – By shifting costs for a number of programs to other dedicated accounts with positive variances, and by reducing General Fund-State spending in other programs, General Fund-State expenditure authority is reduced. This reduction will impact the following programs: Administration, Air Quality, Hazardous Waste, Shorelands, Spills, Waste 2 Resources, and Water Quality.

WATER RESOURCES PROGRAM REDUCTION – Funding and FTE staff are reduced in the Water Resources Program.This will result in less work accomplished in the following activities: water rights adjudication, instream flow setting, dam safety,water rights processing, water law compliance, data and information, water use efficiency, and local watershed management technical assistance.

SHORELANDS PROGRAM REDUCTION – Funding and FTE staff are reduced in the Shorelands and EnvironmentalAssistance Program. This will result in fewer staff available to perform wetlands and watershed planning work. This itemincludes a $500,000 reduction to new and existing watershed planning grants to local communities.

AIR QUALITY PROGRAM REDUCTION – Funding and FTE staff are reduced in the Air Quality Program. This reductionwill result in fewer staff available to work on reducing vehicle emissions, industrial permits, air quality analysis and improvementplanning, and grant management.

WATER QUALITY PROGRAM REDUCTION – Funding and FTE staff are reduced in the Water Quality Program. Thesereductions will delay work on water quality cleanup plans and reduce capacity to manage water quality grants and loans.

ADMINISTRATION PROGRAM REDUCTION – Funding and FTE staff are reduced in the Administration and SupportProgram. This reduction will result in less capacity for federal grant reporting, cost recovery, accounts receivable, and updates tothe Department’s information technology system responsible for managing grants, contracts, and loans. In addition, less staff timewill be devoted to climate change preparation and adaptation work.

MONITORING PROGRAM REDUCTION – Funding and FTE staff are reduced in the Environmental Assessment Program.This will result in fewer staff devoted to measuring streamflows and monitoring the effectiveness of water cleanup plans.

UTILIZE DEDICATED ACCOUNTS – By shifting costs for a number of programs to other dedicated accounts with positivevariances, and by reducing General Fund-State spending in other programs, General Fund-State expenditure authority is reduced.This reduction will impact the following programs: Administration, Air Quality, Hazardous Waste, Shorelands, Spills, Waste 2Resources, and Water Quality.

Department of Fish and Wildlife:

DEFER EQUIPMENT PURCHASES – Funding is reduced for the purchase of equipment and supplies for the remainder of the biennium.

ELIMINATE AQUATIC EDU ACTIVITIES – Funding is eliminated for two aquatic education programs: Angler Education and Salmon in the Classroom.

ADMINISTRATIVE REDUCTION – Savings are achieved through vacancy management in administration and enforcement, and an increased use of existing federal and private/local expenditure authority.

Reaction to Lummi v. State decision

October 29th, 2010  |  Published in Department of Ecology, Legal

Here’s an AP story that details the decision of the state Supreme Court to uphold the 2003 Municipal Water Law:

The Washington State Supreme on Thursday unanimously upheld changes the Legislature made to state water law in 2003 – changes that environmentalists fear will encourage sprawl and water speculation.

The changes included characterizing some developments as municipalities – and allowing them to keep the rights to as much water as their system can handle, even if they haven’t historically used that water.

Several American Indian tribes, individuals and environmental groups challenged the changes. They said the Legislature improperly overruled a prior Supreme Court decision and violated the due process rights of people who could lose access to water under the changes.

The justices said Thursday the changes were, on their face, constitutional but suggested they would entertain challenges later on if people claimed to be specifically harmed.

The state Department of Ecology posted a press release on the decision here.

The Foster Pepper law firm also posted a detailed analysis of the decision:

The Washington State Supreme Court has ruled that key provisions of the Municipal Water Law (MWL) are facially constitutional.1 The ruling affects water rights across Washington State, upholding the flexibility and certainty that the MWL provides to purveyors, municipalities, and other “municipal water suppliers.” However, the Court stressed that the ruling is limited to the “facial constitutional challenges” that were before the Court, leaving room for consideration of similar claims in the future that may be advanced under “as applied” challenges.

State Supreme Court posts decision on Lummi vs. State

October 28th, 2010  |  Published in Department of Ecology, Legal

The state Supreme Court posted their decision in Lummi vs. State online this morning. The decision was unanimous with no minority opinion.

UPDATE: Here is an Associated Press story with more detail on the particulars of the decision.

The Lummi Nation, Makah Tribe, Quinault Indian Nation, Tulalip Tribes, Squaxin Island Tribe and Suquamish Tribe, along with several other individuals, fish and environmental groups challenged the 2003 Muncipal Water Law.

Here is some background from the Center for Environmental Law and Policy on the challenged law.

Here is some more background on the case from a Seattle PI story in 2008, after a lower court ruled in favor of the tribes:

The case, considered by some experts the most important water-rights litigation in Washington in two decades, is likely headed to the state Supreme Court. It was closely watched by environmentalists and tribes, who claimed the 2003 law retroactively expanded rights to pump water far beyond what was justified — and is likely to steal enough water from streams to hurt salmon and other creatures.

“It gave away millions of gallons of water a day to municipalities without even having to consider the impact of that on people who already had rights to water in that area,” said Tom Geiger of the Washington Environmental Council, one of the groups involved.

Tribal interests also claimed victory, despite the mixed ruling, because under the current system, “paper water rights” claimed long ago but not yet used eventually could result in cutting water supplies to people who live here now.

Here is a post on the Washington State Supreme Court blog about the case during the oral arguments last winter.

Here is Billy Frank, Jr.’s column in 2008 praising a lower court ruling in the case in favor of the tribes.

Here are the oral arguments in front of the state Supreme Court last winter:

State agencies release 10 percent across the board cuts

October 25th, 2010  |  Published in Department of Ecology, Department of Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife, Puget Sound Partnership, State Agencies

The state Office of Financial Management recently posted (via Washington Policy Blog) proposed cuts by state agencies in response to Gov. Gregoire’s call for across the board 10 percent cuts.

The proposal’s from state natural resources agencies are all linked to below.

The most thorough proposal is from the Department of Fish and Wildlife. The proposal from that agency includes, for example, cutting “fisheries management capabilities”:

This cut will reduce the agency’s fish management capacity causing: 1) a delay in the completion of regional steelhead management plans of 1-2 years; 2) more conservative management of resident warmwater and trout species in lowland lakes in south Puget Sound that will result in lost fishing opportunity, loss of staff support for youth fishing and environmental education activities in south Puget Sound; 3) elimination of work to evaluate chinook and coho salmon release strategies from south Puget Sound hatcheries; and 4) a delay in our ability to respond to external inquiries and fish management concerns, reducing stakeholder satisfaction.

The WDFW plan also details cuts in hatchery production:

This request would close a short term salmon rearing site, reduce Chinook salmon production in South Puget Sound by 2.8M and improve the efficiency of remaining production. In addition, we would reduce Chinook production by 1M in mid Puget Sound to better align current production with conservation and recovery needs for the Lake Washington drainage. Lastly, we would eliminate off-station steelhead releases of 20,000 each, in Willipa Bay and the north Coast of Washington, to reduce negative affects of returning adult steelhead on natural production in those regions.

Reductions would influence the amount of hatchery salmon available for harvest. However, remaining production will allow continued fishing opportunity.

Department of Fish and Wildlife
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